Category Archives: Letters from Armorica

Letters from Armorica- Bastien (24 August 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Life is but a whirlwind of changes here in Bois-de-Bas. We are now a properly chartered city, of course, though that doesn't yet show on the surface; and the Guild Hall will remain in Mont-Havre for the time being, Lord Doncaster having agreed to my making a series of quarterly visits. But everything else!

The wagon-works is naturally in a constant state of change at this time as we learn the best ways to organize and speed the daily work. Marc and Jacques have that in hand, and I offer my thoughts whenever I visit—which I now do with a small floating cart of my own, so that I can more easily transport the lifting and motive elements I produce in my own shop. Luc, to my amazement, has trained Patches the goat to pull it.

When I arrived at the wagon-works yesterday I was surprised to discover that I now have a small closet there, with a writing desk and a chair. It is just a small cubby built into one wall, with thin partitions that do little to block the noise; but as the father of small girls I have learned to block out extraneous noise at need. Thus, I now have a place of my own to work and think on my days at the works.

Marc's office is rather larger and grander than mine, I may say, but then he is there every day—and I dare say it should be larger, for Jean-Baptiste has settled in as his clerk, and between Marc and Jean-Baptiste and the files and the ledgers there is scarcely room to move.

But it is the main part of the building where the changes are most dramatic. There are benches all along where the parts of the wagons are shaped, each in turn, and in the middle a place where each new wagon is assembled from the parts all around. Marc says they are now producing a new wagon every third day, and can go faster at need.

But it is the changes at home that have astonished me, for they were wholly unexpected. When I arrived home on Wednesday I found Luc working in the forming shop, and helping customers at the counter as needed, just as he should do…but I also found that the shop itself had changed. Between them, Amelie and Luc had arranged for a small extension at the back: a small place with a stool and a drawing table and places to keep my grimoires, journals, and other drawings. It is not a room precisely, being separated from the main part of the shop by no more than a railing at waist height supported by simple balusters; but it is more than I had before.

"Mais oui, you must be seen," said Amelie. "But you cannot be all of the time chatting with the old men, mon cher Armand. You must be able to think. Voilà! Penses-tu!"

I do not know how they managed to build it in the short time I was gone. I suppose that Amelie asked for it weeks ago, and that Jacques had had the materials all prepared so that he and his men could come in and assemble it quickly. It is small, not to say cramped, and the wood is unfinished (though well smoothed) as it is in the rest of the forming shop; but I find that I already love it very much.

But the biggest change is the presence of our new servant, Bastien. He is well named, I may say, for he is tall and stoutly built, more like an ox than a man; and he is bastion in very truth, for anyone who attempted to knock him down would surely bounce. He speaks little, but does whatever he is asked to do; and when he is not engaged in lifting crates or unloading wagons he stands against the wall somewhere in my vicinity and waits to be of use. I was taken aback when I first saw him, for there are many fragile things in our shops and store-room that might be harmed by a careless move, but for all his size he moves lightly and with ease. I have no idea where Amelie found him for I am sure I have never seen him before; and truly he is hard to miss.

I am of two minds about his presence, even though I was the one who asked Amelie to find such a person, for he is quite a sizable piece of furniture in his own way and I find I am often walking around him. But on the other, I do feel safer with him here, for he will be capable of dealing with most any physical assailant. A pistol could bring him down…perhaps I should look into making him some kind of hardened leather jerkin, such as the King's guards wear?

I shall consider.

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Letters from Armorica- Dinner with His Lordship (19 August 36 AF)

First Letter

Ma chére Amelie,

Marc and I have just returned from a private dinner with Lord Doncaster and my cousin Jack. All is well, and as I know you are waiting with 'bated breath I am taking a few moments before bed to write to you. Tomorrow I shall attend on M. Suprenant and send this to you by arrow.

Ma chérie, all is well, all is very well indeed. I fear I have misjudged His Lordship rather severely, and in fact the meal was full of surprises for me. But let me tell it as it happened.

Marc and I arrived in Mont-Havre two days ago; the trip was swift and comfortable, and I have a list of interested customers that I gathered along the way. We made haste to meet with M. Gauthier and give him a copy of the town charter, which was the work of but a moment. We dined with M. Suprenant, and yesterday with my good friend M. Fournier; and this morning a messenger brought an invitation to dine with His Lordship to the Guild Hall.

Dinner with the Governer-General is often a grand affair: an enormous dining room, a long table with many chairs, footmen serving each diner, music, chandeliers sporting hundreds of candles, and all of the leading men of Bois-de-Bas in attendance. Tonight, though, we were escorted to a small room with a table set for four where Jack and His Lordship waited. We were seated, and a single footmen served us and then closed the doors and departed.

Once we was gone His Lordship asked us, in "a voice of the most stern", what we thought we were playing at. I began to explain our reasoning, and my desire to live and work in Bois-de-Bas, and all of the arguments you know, and as I spoke I noticed a most peculiar expression on His Lordship's face. His mustache almost seemed to be twitching, and I thought to myself, "How angry is he?" The twitching grew worse, and Jack stared at his plate with a fixed, glassy-eyed expression, and I grew more and more concerned, and then as I was wrapping up His Lordship burst into gales of laughter.

"You have no idea," he said, drying his eyes after many long moments of merriment, "you have no idea how much pleasure I have derived from watching the members of le Grand Parlement scurry hither and thither like crazed mice. Most of them are merchants or have mercantile interests, you know. A third of them are calling down curses on your name because of what they fear you will do to business here in Mont-Havre, another third are angry because they didn't think of it first, and all of them are consulting with their men of law to ensure that no one can do it again without their approval. I find I must drink your health."

And he did so, in bumpers. Then he spoke to me seriously.

"My dear Tuppenny, you have misjudged me. I do not wish to constrain you unduly, but I do wish to keep you safe. You are the only one who knows how to form these contraptions of yours, which are of the first importance for Armorican prosperity, and also, though you might not care as much about this, for Cumbrian supremacy over her enemies; and you have been the target of one plot already."

"Oh!" I exclaimed. "Is that all? In that case I can assure you that I am in no danger in Bois-de-Bas—less so than here in Mont-Havre, I assure you." And then, of course, I told him of the events of the war: how Le Maréchal's men tried to winkle me out of Bois-de-Bas, and how the folk of Bois-de-Bas responded. I did not go into detail about the location of our hide-out during those days, but only that we had one; I may have led him to think that it was underground. It is better that L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau remains a secret.

His Lordship enjoyed the stories immensely, but afterwards said to me gravely, "I see you are much loved. But consider: people will be coming to Bois-de-Bas now, people you don't know. Some may come to love you as well. Others, well, they may have reasons not to do so. I do pray you will be careful."

Perhaps, ma chérie, you might consider hiring someone? A largish someone to help with loading and unloading wagons and moving things about the store-room, and to ride with me when I travel to and from the wagon-works? You know the young men of the village; you will be well able to find someone worthy of trust.

Marc and I will dine with M. Suprenant tomorrow, and leave for Bois-de-Bas on Mardi, and so I should be home with you on Mercredi

With all my love,


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Letters from Armorica- The Charter (15 August 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

The thing is done, thanks to the good advice of M. Suprenant and his l'homme de loi, M. Gauthier. The people of the town of Bois-de-Bas have enacted a city charter under the statutes of the Articles of Founding, which are surprisingly lenient on the matter of population size. I suppose they had to be to allow for the incorporation of Mont-Havre thirty-six years ago, and then, these are the Articles set down by the Première Débarquement, the First Landing.

The successful founding of Armorica dates to the Deuxième Débarquement, an event Armoricans remember fondly and celebrate each June 3rd; but the city of Mont-Havre was founded by the colonists who came three years earlier on the Pont Neuf, our dear Madame Truc and Jacques-le-Souris among them. Though they are inveterate story-tellers, Jacques especially, even they prefer not to remember the hardships of those early years.

But the fundamental laws of the Colony of Armorica were set down at the time of the First Landing, and agreed to by the colonists who came later with Captain Jacques Durand on the Argenteuil. Planting a colony is a dangerous business, and it was understood that the site chosen for the first settlement might have serious disadvantages that were not apparent at first or even second glance—that it might, in fact, be necessary for the settlement to be abandoned in favor of a more propitious spot. On the other hand, the founders (most of whom perished within the first two years) did not want rival cities springing up everywhere just because of quarrels among the first colonists. All the Articles of Founding say, then, is that a second commune (for so the Provençese call an incorporated or chartered township) may not be established until twenty years after landing, unless the Première Cité must be abandoned during that time.

Today there are of course many small towns, villages, and hamlets outside of Mont-Havre; but according to M. Gauthier none of them have chosen to incorporate as a commune. It seems odd; but Armorica has been a backwater for most of its existence—due to the Troubles in Provençe, no one there had time to make trouble for the colonists. And Mont-Havre proved to be as good a site as the first colonists thought. So communities formed, and handled their own affairs in peace, mostly because the other communities in Armorica were too busy with their own affairs to meddle. I'm sure some would have liked to incorporate had they been allowed; but twenty years is a full generation, and I by the time it was possibility the possibility had been largely forgotten.

The main point for us is that there is no obstacle in the Articles of Founding for Bois-de-Bas to be chartered as a commune; the only hard requirement is that the charter be registered with the "governing council" of the colony. Not "approved" by that council, but simply "registered" with it. The first colonists wanted to be able to live their lives without undue interference from above, to the extent possible. In Provençe, any new commune would have needed to be approved by the Crown, but the Articles of Founding are silent about that, despite having portentous language about the allegiance owed to the mother country and its monarch.

And so, with the help of M. Gauthier we wrote up a charter for Bois-de-Bas that says that our town is governed by a town meeting and presided over by a mayor chosen by that meeting—which is to say that life will go on as before, except that now Bois-de-Bas will have rights under the law that the big men in Mont-Havre are bound to respect.

The people of Bois-de-Bas met in informal council in the Hot Springs this past Sunday—at least, the residents of long standing did—and then again in formal meeting at our town hall this afternoon, and after a few minor changes, the charter was adopted. Bois-de-Bas is now the Chartered Commune of Bois-de-Bas—or will be, once the charter is registered—and I, for my sins, am its first official mayor.

Tomorrow Marc Frontenac and I will make the journey to Mont-Havre, armed with the final draft of our charter, and spend a few days living quietly at the Guild Hall and dining with friends while M. Gauthier sees to registering the charter with the "governing council" of the Colony of Armorica; and then, no doubt, we shall dine with Lord Doncaster, who will want to know what we are about; and then we shall have a some fraught talk about the Armorican Former's Guild and the residency requirements thereof. I do not see a need to move the Guild's headquarters to Bois-de-Bas if something can be arranged with His Lordship; but if he becomes sticky I shall gladly do so.

Moving the Guild headquarters would leave a vacuum in Mont-Havre, of course, which means that some Cumbrian or Provençese former might come and establish a new branch of the guild there—an unpleasant thing—but the guild in Bois-de-Bas would remain the senior branch and the head of the guild in Armorica.

His Lordship might argue that the Articles of Founding have been abrogated by the Cumbrian victory over Le Maréchal and subsequent annexation of Armorica…but His Lordship has been delicate in his touch, to date, and beyond insisting on Cumbrian hegemony has mostly left the laws of Armorica alone, and as yet he has said nothing specific about the Articles of Founding.

I expect that to change, shortly. But for now we shall see if His Lordship blinks. I rather think he will.

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Letters from Armorica- Shopkeeping (31 July 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Amelie and I have had our first serious squabble—and it came to me as a complete surprise. It was all about our shop—the village shop, not my workshop.

When I first married Amelie, she and I ran the shop together. Then it came out that I'm a former, and we added my workshop; Amelie ran the shop counter, took orders, and so forth, and I did forming for the townsfolk. Then came the children, and war; Marc and Elise ran the shop for a period of time, while we were away on L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau, and once we returned we sometimes asked Jean-Baptiste and his Brigitte to help out at the counter.

But Tuppenny Wagons is now taking most of my time; and with the children, Amelie has less time for the shop; and Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte need something more regular than occasional work. So I thought, well. What if we were to sell the shop to Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte? It would be good for them, and good for us. We'd need to build a new home, of course….

But Amelie hates the idea. I can't find words to describe how much she hates it. It all came out in a tumble of words—the shop is all she has left of her father—she was raised to work!—it is her home. I backed down quickly, for I was horrified that I had made her cry, and went out to Tuppenny Wagons to talk with Marc.

To my surprise, he too reacted with horror to my idea, though without the yelling and crying.

"Jamais!" he said. "You mustn't do that, Armand!"

"And why not?" I am afraid I was quite cold and stiff.

"Because it is what your father would do."

I began to ask him what he meant by that, and then the sense of it hit me and I was silent.

Marc led me out of our big barn of a building to where a bench had been placed overlooking the sweep of land to the west, the road to Mont-Havre cutting through the middle of it, and sat the two of us down.

"You have been forced to think à ton pere of late," he said. "You have been demanding, devious, skillful in your dealings with Lord Doncaster.C'est bon, for it has been what Tuppenny Wagons needs. But it is not what you need,mon cher, and it is not what Amelie or the children need from you."

I must have looked rather stricken, for Marc put a hand on my shoulder and spoke to me gently.

"The people of Bois-de-Bas love you, Armand, because you came here from la grande ville of Mont-Havre—and before that from Yorke!—but you were not hautain, ne pas prétentieux. You were willing to work, and did not complain. The people of Bois-de-Bas have not forgotten your time with the goats, mon cher. And then once you married Amelie you began to do everything you could for your neighbors. And you did it well, tres bon, and without thinking it made you important."

"I begin to see," I said.

"C'est vrai," he said. "And now in dealing with Lord Doncaster you have found that you must act like your father, wise as a serpent and mild as a grand-blaireau. It is a skill, Armand, and you do it well, but it is not you."

"Have I been acting like my father at home, do you think?"

"That you must ask Amelie," he said. But Amelie talks with Elise, and Elise talks with Marc, and from the look in his eye I could see the answer was yes. "But there is more," he said.

"That isn't enough?"

"Just a little more, Armand. The people of Bois-de-Bas are proud of you, but most do not see you daily. If you sell the shop and build a grande maison—for it would be grande, n'est-ce pas?"

I nodded.

"If you did that, they would begin to think you are—how do the Cumbrians put it? Too big for your britches. Non, you must keep the shop." He nodded decisively. "And your workshop. If you wish to keep their respect, you must remain where they can see you."

"But what about Tuppenny Wagons?"

"It is not to worry. I will be there, managing things day-to-day; and much of what you do you can do from your workshop. For you must design new things, and train Luc and the other apprentice you have not found yet, and be available to your neighbors. Oh, you need not be there every day. Luc is becoming a fine young man and can attend to it while you are here at the wagon-works."

"Yes, I see. But what about Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte? I had also hoped to provide them with steady work."

"Ça va. Brigitte may help Amelie run your shop, for, vraiment, she needs the help; and as for Jean-Baptiste, well, Tuppenny Wagons needs a bookkeeper, n'est-ce pas? For surely you and Amelie have no time for it."

I sat there quietly for a time, watching the sun as it approached the horizon, and Marc sat with me. Then I rose.

"I expect I need to get home to Amelie," I said.

"C'est vrai," said Marc, and slapped me on the back. "I shall look for you here in three days."

Amelie was waiting when I returned home. She apologized for acting like a shrew—which she had not—and I apologized for acting like my father.

"Ah! Ah!" she cried. "Is that him? Is that what he is like, ton pere?"

I nodded grimly.

"And that is why you came here and married me," she said, smiling through her tears. "Ne t'inquiète pas," she said, "I shall recognize him next time, and tell you so."

"You had better," I said. Then I told her of my conversation with Marc, and we agreed to invite Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte to share the noon meal with us tomorrow and talk about our futures.

Dear Lord, save me from the shadow of my father.

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Letters from Armorica- Ground-breaking (16 July 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Today we finished clearing the ground for Tuppenny Wagons' new home! I have seen how quickly my fellow townsfolk can put up a new barn, so it shouldn't be long before we can move in and get to work.

Amelie already has ten or so orders in her ledger; one is from M. Trousseau, the lumberman, for a wagon to carry logs to his mill. I have been pondering how best to meet his needs for some time, and after much discussion with Jacques we think we have come up with a solution.

At present, M. Trousseau's men do the rough cutting where the trees are felled, and then haul the sections to the mill by harnessing them to a team of oxen and dragging them. This is hard on the software woods (though not on bronzewood), and also hard on the oxen. But there has been no help for it: the sections are quite heavy, too heavy to easily lift onto a wagon; if there were roads for wagons, which there are not.

Now suppose we made a pair of lifting elements that could be strapped onto each end of a section of trunk. The first of the pair would have the attachments for harnessing a yoke of oxen. The second would have a hardened skid as an aid to dragging the section—for from our experiences with wagons, we do not consider that lifting the entire log into the air is a good way to transport it, as a floating section of log could easily get out of hand and crush someone. No, we intend that the lead end should float just off the ground, while the hind end should simply be lightened but not lifted.

To this we would add other lifting elements, with straps, that can be attached to a log and used (with care) to move it about "by hand", as, for example, onto the bed of the sawmill, or just to lift it enough to get the transportation fittings attached to the ends.

We will be presenting our ideas to M. Trousseau tomorrow; and no doubt will be told that we have missed some vital point, and shall have to start over. Still, I think we are making progress.

In the meantime, Jacques and Luc and I have nearly completed our first two wagons for sale; and Amelie will be sending word to the buyers in a day or so.

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Letters from Armorica- Ducks (28 June 36 AF)

First Letter

Mon cher Leon,

His Lordship is attempting to use guild law to put pressure on me to make my home in Mont-Havre. It was delicately done, by a brief word from Jack—while I am sure he would like to have Tuppenny Wagons based in Mont-Havre our mutual venture was nowhere mentioned, but only the legal status of the Armorican Former's Guild. I have put him off for the time being, but we must get our ducks in a row, as they say in Cumbria.

I enclose a copy of my letter to Jack, so that you know the full position; you are free to discuss it with him, if you think necessary; but I am concerned that he is in a delicate position himself, and I would not wish to put a strain on his loyalty to His Lordship. That would not be fair to him as a loyal and trusted aide, nor as my cousin and friend. But you will know best, I am sure.

I suppose I didn't need to say any of that; and naturally you drew certain conclusions from having received this by arrow.

You had best read the letter to Jack before continuing.

What I chiefly need to know is the state of Armorican law (and of the city of Mont-Havre's law, if there can be said to be such a thing, apart from Armorican law) regarding the establishment and maintenance of guilds. This must be kept quiet; I am sure you know someone who can help.

But second, as I most definitely did not discuss with Jack: I should like to know the laws regarding the establishment of new city charters. I have no wish to formally move the guild house to Bois-de-Bas; but at present I cannot even threaten to do so, as Bois-de-Bas is nothing more than a rather large village at present. That must change when our business grows larger and so I would have asked this question eventually in any event. I have discussed the possibility with a few of the folk here, with positive results (the idea of Bois-de-Bas being the second city of Armorica piques their vanity if nothing else) but of course we should have to have a town meeting to settle it. Before that, I should need to know precise details.

This question, you will understand, must be kept deadly quiet. I am sure that Armorica's charter as a colony has rules for the chartering of new cities, rules that quite possibly no one has looked at in decades; we have been a backwater here, and our towns and villages haven't needed the protection a city charter provides. As soon as the question is raised, however, there will be those who wish to change the rules to their advantage—and, possibly, to our disadvantage—and should we choose to pursue the matter I should like to have it a fait accompli under the law before any such legislation can be suggested.

I do not think we are in great danger, Leon; His Lordship is a reasonable man, and if necessary I will journey to Mont-Havre to speak to him myself. But my father taught me never to show my cards, and always to bargain from a position of strength. I find it distressing how useful his advice is becoming.



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Letters from Armorica- Guild Rules (27 June 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

Well, now. That's an interesting conjecture on His Lordship's part; and as you tell me Lord Doncaster has only my best interests in mind in bringing it to my attention, I must of course believe you.

It is certainly true that in Cumbria—or, rather, in Yorke, for historically the Guild, though united, owes its existence to its charter in each city—well, not to put too fine a point on it, yes, in Cumbria a guild must maintain a regular presence at its guild houses or lose its status before the law. That is, ultimately, the foundation of my legal argument for assuming mastery of the Former's Guild here in Armorica—the Confrerie des Thaumaturges packed bags and returned to Provençe, abandoning the field decades ago.

Best interests or not, this is an absurdly transparent attempt on His Lordship's part to persuade me to move lock, stock, barrel, and company to Mont-Havre. That would kill two birds with one stone: I would preserve the guild by taking up residence in the Guild Hall, a pleasant enough space, and His Lordship would have me ready to hand.

But you know, Jack, that my father expected me to take over the Cumbrian Guild from him in good time, and so spent more of my apprenticeship teaching me Guild Law, especially as regards this sort of thing, than he did teaching me forming. It was always a bone of contention between us, but after so many years it stuck well enough. And I can tell you, the situation is less simple than it looks.

Under Cumbrian law, His Lordship would be perfectly right. But we are in Armorica. The Former's Guild here has its origin in the Cumbrian Guild, as represented by my person; but it is the Armorican guild, and is free to adopt its own unique rules as circumstances dictate. To be blunt, within certain customary limits, the laws of the Armorican Former's Guild are what I say they are.

And, of course, within the limits of the laws of the land in question.

The question is, what are the Armorican laws regarding guilds? Before the war, I expect they would have been the same as the Provençese laws, Armorica being considered a province of Provençe; but what are they now? His Lordship is the Crown's representative in Armorica, more or less by right of conquest; but as a protectorate of Cumbria rather than as a province. His Lordship is here with the agreement of the population, and that only because His Lordship's hand has been light, and he has chosen to allow us to retain such of our local laws as seem good to us. Armorican laws apply. And then, the overarching law of guilds is ultimately the law of the city corporations, taken together, as they involve guilds, which is to say, the law of Mont-Havre.

So what is the law of the City Corporation of Mont-Havre as regards guilds? That is what I must determine—for I tell you plainly, I have no intention of making my home in Mont-Havre as a long-term proposition. In the meantime, the phrase "a regular presence" is subject to interpretation; and for the time being I am happy to establish a presence there at least once a year.

Might I add—I have no wish to discommode His Lordship; indeed, I am happy to hear any proposal he might have for me. But Bois-de-Bas is my home. If His Lordship truly has my best interests at heart, he will respect that.

Your affectionate cousin,


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Letters from Armorica- Making Haste Slowly (6 June 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Leon,

Everything seems poised to go so fast, and yet proceeds so slowly! Amelie received three inquiries for road-wagons before I'd ever returned to Bois-de-Bas, and several more have come in during the last month. There would be many, many more, I feel sure, if we began to use our only road-wagon to haul goods in earnest between Bois-de-Bas and Mont-Havre, but it will be too useful to us here as we get La Compagnie des Wagons Tuppenny started. That, and as you say we must move avec prudence: let us by all means have a few wagons to sell and the ability to produce more before we starting enflaming demand too much!

And that will take a little while. CWT has so many needs, and even though so many are readily available here in Bois-de-Bas it takes time to get them all together. Lumber, for example. We have been using chêne-pierre because it is common here, and it was easy enough to gather sufficient seasoned wood for a single wagon; but if we are to make many such we need a steady supply, and that requires planning.

And then, Jacques has suggested that we might use a proportion of beechpine in place of chêne-pierre, as it is softer and easier to work, and might do equally well for the parts of the wagon that aren't load-bearing. And as far as that goes, it might do quite well for the hardened struture as well—though I will have to carefully determine whether the material to be hardened has an effect on the degree of effort a hardened block can make available to the other parts of the wagon. I don't believe it does; it seems to have more to do with shape and geometry.

But if we can, then using beechpine could result in a considerable savings of both time and money—except that we would have to acquire it from a distance, and it would need to be hauled here, and we would need you to set up relationships with those who sell it.

Oh, my. I have just imagined a discussion I must have with M. Trousseau, who owns our local lumber mill. Imagine, mon cher Leon, a road-wagon for hauling logs…to a lumber mill outfitted with formed devices for moving them easily. I'm picturing something like an object with a strap for strapping around a log that provides lift. Strap two or more around the log at intervals, and it should be possible to lift the log into the air and move it into place. It would need to be carefully designed: as with our road-wagon, you wouldn't want the log to get away from you. But it seems that the work could be made much easier and safer than it is now, and that would be worth quite a bit.

Hah! Perhaps we might acquire our chêne-pierre at a lower cost than we had planned! Yes, and then sell the equipment to other places in good time!

But our deepest needs are two: men to do the work, and a place for them to do it. The latter is the more pressing, as we have some number of young men who came here during the war and are eager to stop "feeding the goats" as my townsfolk have begun to say—that is, to do the unpleasant jobs that as newcomers they are most welcome to do. I've no doubt they have friends in their home villages who are eager to the do the same.

The facility is easy enough, in principle: all we need to get started is, effectively, a barn, to get us out of the weather, and that's a structure that the people here know well how to build. And quickly, too, as I saw with our town hall some while ago. But there is no place to put it right here in town, as the town hall got the last available space for such a large structure; and in any event no one wants it right here in town anyway. Marc and I have found a property some miles to the west of town: a nice spot on dry, high ground, but with bad soil for farming or it would have been taken decades since. The land will need to be cleared, of course, but we should have something in place in a month or two, enough to get started. It is a place of the most excellent, as Amelie noted to me, because it overlooks the road from Mont-Havre. We shall put a large sign on the front, and every drover who goes by will see it.

The more difficult issue is how we divide up our time, Jacques and Marc and I. Jacques remains our cabinet-maker here in Bois-de-Bas, but we will need him to build the first several wagons, and then to oversee the work. He will need to take on another apprentice or two, it seems, which will further restrict his time in the short run. And Marc, of course, has his farm; but he is planning on spending a good bit of his time on our new endeavor, and if it goes well he might, so he tells me, give up farming altogether.

Ironically, my services are the least of it so far as building the wagons goes; and I begin to see how the Former's Guild has become so powerful and its members so lazy. The forming proper is a small fraction of the effort required to produce a finished wagon; some of it I can do here in my workshop, and the rest can be done on-site quickly enough. And yet, only a former can do it. It will be quite some time before the work required is beyond the strength of Luc and myself. Still, I suppose I should begin looking for another apprentice. Luc is progressing quickly, now that he has learned to read and write fluently; his indentures run for another five years, but he will be capable of journeyman work long before that.

So there is much to wait for—but of course we are not waiting for all of that to fill the first few orders. Jacques and I have revised the design somewhat after our journey to and from Mont-Havre, and have begun work on the first few orders; and Amelie has designed a pretty little emblem we can place on each wagon, like a hallmark. On a part of the hardened structure, naturally, so that it can't be removed!

And so we go on, mon cher Leon, so we go on!



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Letters from Armorica- A Little Stir (3 May 36 AF)

First Letter

Ma chère Amelie,

Our trip to Mont-Havre has been more glorious than I could have expected. The journey itself was a treat: I knew riding in a floating wagon would be much more pleasant than in a conventional wagon with wheels, but I had not accounted for the lack of bumpiness over the course of an entire day. For once I do not feel battered and bruised as I sit down to my evening meal!

I do believe our road-wagons will change the geography of Armorica. The little towns of Honfleur and Petit-Monde are spaced about a day's walk apart on the road from Bois-de-Bas to Mont-Havre, a distance suitable enough for oxen as well; but we made quicker time than I have ever made before. The oxen didn't get so tired as quickly, and though we stopped briefly in Honfleur for water and necessaries we spent the night in Petit-Monde. It made for a very long day, so that we would much have preferred to stop midway between the two; but still, to arrive in Mont-Havre on the second day!

If only the wagon were self-motivating, I do believe we could easily have made it in one day. But Marc was correct: there is far too much traffic on the road for that to be safe in unskilled hands. We must have passed twenty or thirty other wagons today, some going our way, some coming the other way; and the road is narrow and far from straight. Had we been moving faster, I think there would have been some dangerous collisions! A fine thing it would be for our new company to go bankrupt before it was formed, through paying damages to other firms.

But the glorious part, chérie, is the look on the faces of the other travelers and those who dwell in the little towns as they suddenly realize that our wagon is different. We have been stopped for a talk by many of them, and I have told them to contact me, Armand Tuppenny, care of the shop in Bois-de-Bas. I expect you will already have heard from at least one or two by the time you receive this. I have been collecting the directions of those who are interested; do you the same, and we shall—but I am not to be telling you how to conduct business, chérie!

Today we all met: M. Suprenant, Marc, Jack, and I, with Luc in attendance; blessedly, Lord Doncaster did not feel the need to be present, though I expect that he might still drive a difficult bargain when it comes time to address selling wagons to the Crown. We had a fine dinner at M. Suprenant's home, and then had a long talk after the table had been cleared.

Most of the details were settled quickly, as things so often are among friends; and may I say that Marc and Leon Suprenant are well on the way to becoming friends? I could ask nothing better.

There will be one hundred shares. Leon will own the grand-blaireau's share, of course, as the money is his; I begin with fifteen, as the former who can make it possible; Jacques Pôquerie with ten as the builder, and Marc and Jack each have five, leaving Leon with sixty-five…at present. Part of our agreement (all properly written down, I assure you) is that Jacques and I shall be able to purchase shares from Leon as we begin to earn money, so that in time you and I shall own the largest share. For now, it is Leon who is taking the most risk.

Though I know you will be pleased I find I am rather embarrassed to tell you the name we settled upon for the new venture. I favored a simple name like Armorican Wagons, but the others insisted on "La Compagnie des Wagons Tuppenny", or as we would say in Cumbrian, Tuppenny Wagons. We wrangled over it for quite some time, but ultimately they wore me down. I tried to argue that it was a bad name, that the wagons would cost quite a bit more than tuppence, that our customers would find it confusing, and Jack laughed at me and told me I should have chosen my nom de guerre more carefully, and that it was a proper stick in the eye for my father.

It is true, I should like to see the look on his face, chérie. His son, grandmaster of the Former's Guild in Armorica, engaging in trade—and under such a name as Tuppenny! And when we are successful, as I am sure we shall be, I am not sure which will annoy him more: that I am bringing shame on the family by engaging in trade, or that I am not using his name, so that he can't take credit for our success.

It has been a long day, chérie, and there is much to do tomorrow; but I should be home late on Samedi. Kiss Anne-Marie and Margaret for me!

Your loving husband,


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Letters from Armorica– Avec Prudence (29 April 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Tomorrow at last I will set out to Mont-Havre to speak with M. Suprenant and Lord Doncaster…and I shall do so in style!

Jacques and I have spent this week building a fine road-wagon: a simple affair, based on a normal wagon body, but with just enough in the way of lifting blocks to carry it a foot or so off of the ground, and sled-like runners on which to rest for loading and unloading. The wagon has no motive block, and must be pulled by horses or other beasts of burden—or, rather, instead of a motive block it has what I call a braking block so that it will slow down on its own. The braking block was a late addition, developed after our wagon narrowly missed maiming two of Marc's best oxen. It is always active.

As a result, this wagon has only one control, to lift it into the air or lower it to the ground. Once lowered, it will not move; and once raised it may be pulled about like any other wagon. Almost like any other wagon: it never requires quite as much work to pull as a normal wagon would on smooth and level ground, regardless of the footing or slope.

It is a modest effort, far less than I could do: even Luc can do most of the necessary forming. But it is easily formed, and the unformed parts are easily built, and it should be no more difficult for a drover or farmer or carter to use than a normal wagon—while being much easier on the horses or oxen, and never breaking a wheel.

I had been all in favor of going straight to a full-fledged sky-wagon, or possibly what one might call a sky-skiff, but Marc and Jack between them talked me out of it. Jack's argument is that anything I make in this line will have military implications—what I want is a patent royal, and it will be much easier to get one if I offer my more advanced vehicles to the crown first. Marc's argument is more down to the earth, as one might say. He well remembers the day his sky-sled went to pieces around him, tumbling him to the ground. Our first customers are much less likely to kill themselves using a road wagon than they would with a sky-sled, sky-chair, or sky-wagon. "You are tres intelligent, Armand, and your work, it is digne de confiance. But still, let us move avec prudence." M. Suprenant, whom we consulted by arrow, agrees. "A man who falls from a wagon is bruised, while a man who falls from the sky, donc, he is killed. Let us remember that les idiots, they are always with us. Let us act so that they do not destroy what we are building."

All three are right, of course, and our unexpected need for a braking block (so that the wagon may also move avec prudence) is just an example of the wisdom of taking it slowly. And speaking of prudence, I must here record, since I neglected to do so above, that the braking block was Luc's notion!

And so tomorrow, Marc, Luc, and I will journey to Mont-Havre in our road-wagon, there (I hope) to acquire a patent royal and form a new company under the auspices of the crown. It shall not be a small endeavor: M. Suprenant for funding, Jacques Pôquerie for the design and normal building, myself for the forming, Marc and Jack for friendship and aid. And possibly Lord Doncaster, though I would prefer if he had no explicit role in the new company. I am glad to give him any credit, but I would prefer if our efforts were purely Armorican-owned. Always assuming that I can persuade Jack to make his life here, as I increasingly hope I can. But Lord Doncaster, as the Crown's representative here, must always be an outsider.

There will be pressure to locate our company in Mont-Havre, but we intend to place it in Bois-de-Bas. It is my home; the necessary materials are here in abundance; and it is past time for Armorica to have another commercial center.

And now, to bed for a good night's rest.

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